Call for Proposals for the 33 1/3 Series

Bloomsbury is thrilled to announce a call for new proposals for the acclaimed 33 1/3 book series, previously published by Continuum. (Bloomsbury acquired Continuum in July 2011).

The series – each volume of which focuses on one popular music album of the last several decades – started in September 2003 and has published 85 titles to date. Books in the series so far have taken a wide range of approaches, on subjects ranging from albums by the Kinks to James Brown, from Bob Dylan to Prince, from the Pixies to Public Enemy, and from the Beastie Boys to Celine Dion.

In these new proposals, we’ll be looking for original research, for stories in the history of popular music (recent or otherwise) that haven’t been told too often (if at all), and for perspectives that will broaden and develop the discipline of writing about music, as read by a global readership of music scholars and fans.

Proposals will be considered for books about any album that hasn’t already been covered in the series, or isn’t already under contract. (The Wikipedia page on the series can help with this.) Your choice of album is precisely that: yours. Titles in the series typically sell 4-5,000 copies or more: if you’re convinced that enough readers around the world would rush out to buy your book, then go ahead and persuade us!

All resulting books published in the series as a result of this call for proposals will be published under the Bloomsbury Academic imprint during 2013 and 2014. (All existing titles in the series will also be re-branded as Bloomsbury Academic titles, in due course.)

We will be accepting new proposals between the dates of March 19th and April 30th, 2012. Nothing sooner, nothing later.

Interested authors should send in one proposal, about one album. Multiple submissions cannot be accepted.

All proposals must be submitted via email. The address for submissions is as follows:


The subject line of your email must use this format: “Proposal for Madonna’s Ray of Light”. (That’s an example only, of course…)

Only proposals sent to 33proposals@gmail.com will be considered – no exceptions! Any questions about the proposal process should be posted to the comments section of the 33 1/3 blog , or on the wall of the series facebook page: we will answer them there.

All proposals will receive an automated reply, acknowledging receipt. Once the window closes at the end of April, we will need around 3 months before our publishing decisions are made: everybody will be notified in person at that point.

Word count on the books signed up will be between 30,000 and 40,000. No exceptions allowed.

There will be royalties payable on all print and electronic editions of your book, as well as foreign rights deals, etc – but no advances will be paid against those royalties.

Your proposal must contain all of the following in order to be considered:

1. Your professional CV/resume, including full contact details;
2. A draft annotated table of contents for the book and an approximate date of completion;
3. A draft introduction/opening chapter for the book, of around 2,000 words;
4. Your analysis of the most relevant competing books already published about the artist in question or the scene surrounding that artist – and how your book will differ;
5. A one-page sheet of how you would help Bloomsbury Academic market your book – websites/forums/listservs you’d contact directly; any artist involvement you might expect; any college-level courses on which you think your book could be used, and so on;
6. Up to 1,000 words on which book, or parts of books, already published in the series you would aim to emulate on some level;

You should attach all of this in a readable format to your email as a PDF or .doc or .docx file – if you could include it all as one full document rather than several attachments, we would appreciate that enormously.

Finally, please do share this call for proposals on message boards, listservs, facebook, twitter, blogs, and with any interested colleagues – thank you. We look forward to receiving and reading your proposal!

David Barker PhD
Publishing Director, Bloomsbury Academic US


  1. Dr. Barker,Quick question regarding the upcoming submission period—-how critical is it that the draft introduction be around 2000 words? I have written a very strong and tight intro for my proposed 33 1/3 title but it clocks it at only around 1300 words. However, it gets the point across perfectly. The real meat-n-taters will come in the main body of the book. If the intro doesn’t hit 2000 words, will that negatively affect the strength of my proposal? Please advise. Thank you.Jason

  2. Hi David,I think most of the 33 1/3 books tend to stay in the anglosaxon rock tradition. For instance, it would be okay to write about a German krautrock band, but writing about an Italian pop singer from the 1970s might not seem to fit the series. If said singer (say Franco Battiato) has a notorious sociopolitical relevance, given your new "academic" orientation, do we have more chances to convince you? In such case, is the fact that the album might not be available in the US a problem?Thanks a lot.

  3. Jason: as a rule we ask authors to deal with lyric permissions but if you're having difficulties getting a response, or it's someone we've dealt with before (Dylan's management, for example) we're happy to step in and take care of that.Anon #1: nothing at all against Aus/NZ artists. With regard to the more "academic" direction – I guess the safest thing for me to say is that we'll consider all proposals, but the more unconventional ones, this time around, will have to absolutely blow us away in terms of their quality. If we get something truly brilliant, I'll want to publish it. Anon #2: No, that wouldn't count against it. We published a collection of academic essays about Kraftwerk a few months ago, for example: if we receive a strong 33 1/3 proposal about a Kraftwerk album, that would have a very good chance of being picked. Jake: You're right about the Anglo-Saxon tradition, I guess. It's not an aesthetic choice, but more of a sales/marketing one. It's a balancing act: I'd love the series to be as diverse as possible, but I really hate the idea of publishing one of these books that might end up selling fewer than, say, 1000 copies worldwide. We wouldn't view US availability as a definite dealbreaker for an album, but it would have to be taken into account…

  4. Hi, I've looked at some examples in the book series and, at an average of just over 100 half-sized pages each, they seem to be more like 20,000 words than 30,000 words. Has the publisher changed its policy on word count for the series, or did I count wrongly?

  5. When you ask for a CV/resume as part of the proposal, do you mean a one-page document or a longer (nearly exhaustive) academic-style c.v.? As an academic, I have a multi-page c.v.; is that okay, or would you prefer a one-page document? (Just want to be sure of the cultural conventions here; two countries separated by a common language and all that.)

  6. Thanks for taking questions here! If the project for this round is to do more academic or academic-ish books, will the books be peer-reviewed by external readers (after vetting by series editors, of course)? That would make a difference to academic authors who would like to include this publication on their CV as a scholarly publication (since Bloomsbury Academic is an academic publisher). Also it would allow academic authors to get more assistance from their schools regarding publication subventions to pay rights for photos, lyrics, and such.

  7. Anon #1: formatting – no particular guidelines, just make it as presentable as you can and we'll manage!Anon #2: no sign of any avalanche so far, we're getting 2 or 3 each day…Anon #3: You're right, there are some quite tiny ones that come in around 24-25,000 words. But a lot of the volumes (especially more recently) have been 40,000 words and up. We're aiming to make the new volumes more consistent, length-wise, and neither too slim nor too chunky. Hence, the new word count guide.

  8. If it helps allay any fears/concerns about the merits of the 33 1/3rd series – either artistically or contractually – I was fortunate enough to have my proposal for "One Step Beyond" by Madness accepted a few years ago. I received help & advice from David when I needed it, was given enough rope with which to hang myself when I felt like it, and was able to negotiate the contract with a great deal of ease in 'plain English'. I contacted one or two of the already published authors for a little advice before embarking on my book and they too had nothing but good experiences to share. Good luck one and all.

  9. Hi David,How "annotated" should the table of contents be? My avarage at the moment is around 90 words per chapter. Is this excessive and will it count against a proposal?Thanks.

  10. Thanks for answering our questions! Can you shed some light on exactly how much detail you're looking for on the outline? Should we include a bullet list of everything we're thinking of including in that chapter, just a few highlights, something in between?

  11. Terry: Hi! And thanks.Anon#1: No sign of any avalanche so far, we're still in the double digits in terms of proposals received, halfway through the window. Which is fine by me!Anon#2: 90 words per chapter sounds good, and certainly won't count against you.Anon #3: definitely no need to include everything you're thinking of for each chapter. Something in between, just whatever feels right to you, and that you think will give us the best flavour of what you're aiming for.Wendy: Starting with the narrative is fine, as long as you then include all the other bits!

  12. hello, i believe somebody else posted a similar question a while ago but there was no reply: how long is the CV supposed to be? if i list selected articles, publications, talks etc i have four pages. do you prefer reading something shorter, more like a two-page summary/outline of activities? or is it ok to list things in more detail? thank you!

  13. Hi David,Just a few questions…1) In the move to a more academic minded collection books for this installment, how would you feel about a proposal that has as its main focus an important compilation, but one that also engages with the film and artistic movements surrounding it,in depth ? it could be pitched in multiple venues! : )2) In the same (academic) vein, would it be helpful to include a tentative bibliography with the proposal?Thanks so much!

  14. Perhaps this is an unnecessary question, but thought I'd ask. If the first chapter/section of the book is longer than 2000 words (say, 5000 words), should it be included in its entirety for cohesion, or are you simply assessing for style, etc., and will request additional pages if deemed necessary to properly judge the proposal?I'm assuming to follow the established rules, but an intro may be shorter than a chapter, and just want you the reader to be happy! Thank you in advance!

  15. If the first section/chapter of the book is longer than 2000 words (e.g. 5000 words), should we just include the approximate word count, or the entire chapter for cohesion?Thank you in advance!

  16. Hi,It mentions in your summary that all proposals will receive an automated reply, but I am still awaiting a response after submitting my proposal weeks ago. Should I resubmit my work or is this normal?

  17. David–Probably a silly question (as I should just follow the directions), but for the excerpt, if the chapter is longer than 2000 words (say 5000 words), should we just include the first 2000 and not the entire chapter for cohesion?I'm assuming that you are just interested in getting a feel for the writing style/tone of the work and if you need more to assess you would ask?Thanks in advance!

  18. Anon #1: honestly no preference re length of CV – we're not judging that either way, just wanting to get a sense of what you've done, etc.Anon #2: (1) – yes, that sounds interesting! (2) no need for a bibliography, but if you want to include it, we'll read it!Anon #3: That's a perfectly valid album to submit a proposal for, yes.Anon #4: I tend to wait until they're all in before reading them. Once we see how many we end up with, we can best decide how to evaluate them…Not too many so far – certainly looks manageable.Sara: Feel free to send in the entire chapter. It won't be counted against you.Anon #5: I think the first 3 proposals came in before we'd remembered to set up the auto-reply. Maybe send a quick follow-up email to the gmail account, and I'll confirm (or not) that we have your proposal?

  19. I understand jazz is out. What about comedy albums? Firesign Theatre would be a good subject, but let me know if I'd be better off submitting something else. (Not "Something Else" by The Kinks, though now that I think about it…)

  20. @Anonymous 1: I don't think there would be a need to estimate word count at the end of each chapter synopsis.@The Hanged Man: Comedy albums will be considered, sure.@Anonymous 2: David has been at a conference and then on vacation this week, so I'm totally in the dark about the quantity/quality of submissions. I suppose we'll know soon enough!

  21. Hi,Couple of questions:1. I have nigh-on 1300 words in my annotated table of contents. At about 250-300 words per chapter overview is this going overboard?2. Does our proposal have to utilise the Chicago referencing style? If it doesn't will this count against us, as I have never used this form of citation before?Thank you.

  22. Hi,It may take until right down to the wire for me to complete/submit my proposal. As a UK residence, would my absolute cut off be midnight GMT on 30th April?Thanks.

  23. Anonymous 1: I think that's fine re: your annotated ToC. And I don't think Chicago/non-Chicago referencing makes too much of a difference in the proposal stage.Walker: Yes, we certainly would!Wendy: We are shooting to publish these books between 2013 and 2014, so that would put us at about a year to a year and a half for manuscript delivery.Anonymous 2: Try to get it in on time, but there will be some wiggle room when it comes down to the hour. I wouldn't stress about that too much.

  24. This might seem like an arbitrary question, but would you prefer all six elements of the proposal presented in the order that they're printed above? (i.e. CV first, etc.)

  25. Anon – on the marketing section, any specifics would be hugely appreciated, but I don't see this section being too much of a tie-breaker!Jeff – Yes, if you could, that would be great. (Although again, it won't be held against you if you don't do it like that. While we're trying to keep things as orderly as possible, it's the quality of the ideas and the writing that will win out…)

  26. Would it be a faux pas to include a brief 'supplementary materials' section at the end of one's proposal – for any 'hard sell' points which may not fit amid the proscribed six elements?

  27. Anon1: Sure, feel free to include any supplementary materials you feel necessary. But do try to keep it succinct!Anon2: Yes, we'll put up a list of submissions once we've had a little time to process…

  28. Regarding section 4: Do you want us to stick strictly to competing books — or is it helpful to discuss how this book will differ from general critical reception (magazines, blogs, journals, etc). Thanks!

  29. Hi, David…I wanted to submit a proposal for an album that I saw on the January 2009 long list, but didn't make the short list – Shuggie Otis' Inspiration Information. Would it be a waste of time to submit one for it in this round? Just checking to see if it was a scenario where you just weren't moved by the other proposal or if you just didn't think a book on that album would work for 33 1/3.

  30. Hello – I know you say there will be "wiggle room" on the exact hour of the cutoff, but … if sending from the U.S., are you thinking midnight on April 30, or afternoon of April 30 translating to midnight in the U.K.? Or … er … perhaps you are allowing for eight hours of wiggle room!

  31. My chosen artist is already represented by a different album. I see the Rolling Stones have two entries, so I see that such duplication is not firmly ruled out. But in any case, to what extent (if any) does it become a longer shot if the series has already covered the artist via a different album? Thanks.

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